Kelley Rating (one asterisk = lowest, to five asterisks = highest):
- Ease of navigation, design of interface and learning curve *****
- Instructional documentation and help system ***
- Carries out the goal of the product as advertised ****
- Overall usefulness ****
Mystatewill.com is a remarkable website that provides information relating to the intestate distribution of a decedent’s estate according to the decedent’s personal and financial circumstances. It presents free intestacy calculators for all states and the District of Columbia, links to selected portions of state intestacy laws, an interactive summary of state intestacy laws, a degree of kinship chart and other resources. It features per stirpes and per capita calculators that compute the amount of the net estate passing to each heir based on such estate divisions. It also has facts and charts on degrees of kinship, intestacy law, family member shares and blended family shares.
Other features of mystatewill.com are: a Pennsylvania estate law library with comprehensive links to summaries of Pennsylvania law on anatomical gift directives, living wills, powers of attorney and Pennsylvania wills and an extensive estate law dictionary. It includes articles directed toward laypeople on the subjects of the deceased’s debts, how to divide real estate, who can contest a will, how to create credit shelter trusts, who gets the house, which laws apply and how to notarize wills. The web page Intestacy and Estate Law Articles presents links to articles on the basic concepts of intestacy, the federal estate tax, trusts, estate division and other topics. The web page State Intestacy Law Links offers the articles: “Which states intestacy laws apply at death?” and “How are intestacy laws interpreted?”
A simple estate tax calculator is included, together with basic explanations of the operation of the federal estate tax suitable for education of clients.
While this website is primarily directed toward laypeople, it offers valuable resources to the trusts and estates practitioner for obtaining quick intestacy information, for presenting the consequences of intestacy to the client and determining and explaining the effect of per stirpes distribution specified in a client’s will. It may be helpful in ascertaining intestate consequences in a given state, other than the one in which you regularly practice.
Mystatewill.com was created and is published by attorney Kurt R. Nilson, who practices in Johnstown, Penn.
What’s It All About?
Navigation is through a series of drop down menus at the top of each web page and link lists at the right side of each web page.
The State Intestacy Law Links web page links to the intestacy statutes for each state and the District of Columbia. It includes links to articles on which state’s intestacy laws apply at death and how intestacy laws are interpreted. These articles provide quick introductory research for the practitioner.
The Interactive Legal Programs web page summarizes the operation of the intestacy calculators, the per stirpes calculator, the interactive summary of state laws and the federal estate tax calculator with links to each of them.
The Intestacy Calculators web page links to intestacy calculators tailored to each state. The complexity of each individual intestacy calculator relies upon each state’s individual intestacy laws. Community property distribution is included with the individual intestacy calculators for those states that distribute community property among the spouse and others in a manner that differs from the distribution of individually owned property.
To use the intestacy calculator for a given state you:
· enter the net value of the estate (excluding non-probate property, such as joint tenancies);
· select the year of death;
· identify whether there’s a living spouse;
· identify whether there are living children;
· enter the number of living children;
· identify whether there are deceased children;
· enter the number of deceased children with living descendants;
· identify whether there are living grandchildren of the deceased children;
· identify whether there are deceased grandchildren;
· perform the same sequence of entry as to great-grandchildren;
· identify whether the present spouse is the parent of all the children; and
· identify whether the spouse has living descendants by someone else.
A box then appears with the pre-tax share of each heir calculated.
An interesting and helpful component of mystatewill.com is the Interactive Summary of State Laws. On this web page, you may examine the state rules on spouse and children, spouse as parent, spouse and others, parents, grandparents, other relations, deceased heirs, escheat, half-bloods and community property and real estate. When you select a category, a box with questions as to the state rules appears. After you click on the buttons to answer the questions, a list of states applying this legal concept appears at the bottom of the screen.
Each page includes the heading: “Facts and Charts.” Under this heading you may select a diagram of the degrees of kinship by rules of civil law, a list of interesting intestacy law facts by state (including, laws unique to one state, laws followed by a limited number of states and unexpected laws that can affect many people), a tabulation by state of an example of family member shares and a tabulation by state of an example of family member shares in a blended family.
Mystatewill.com also includes a web page of Sample Intestacy Problems illustrating how complex intestacy can be, including client survived by spouse and two children; client survived by spouse and two grandchildren by one deceased child; and client survived by spouse, two paternal grandparents and three first cousins by two deceased maternal aunts.
What About Help and Support?
Each web page of mystatewill.com includes instructions as to its operation and, where appropriate, explanations of terms used. The site includes a facility to send the publisher your comments, corrections or suggestions.
How Do You Contact the Publisher?
This website is free of charge. You may view the publisher’s background and contact information at: http://www.johnstownlegal.com/profile.htm.
Mystatewill.com is a graceful and elegant website that offers quick and efficient access to elaborate information on intestacy and some other estate matters of use to trust and estate practitioners.
Other Websites With Information on Intestacy
MedLawPlus.com provides intestate succession information for all states.
Child Welfare Information Gateway offers information on the effect of adoption on inheritance and access to state statutes on intestacy.
LawontheWeb presents the rules on intestacy in the United Kingdom.
Seattle University School of Law has information on the effects of the American Indian Reform Act of 2004 on the inheritance of federal trust property and presents estate-planning charts and forms, including intestate succession and estate planning for Indian tribal trust land.
Trusts & Estates magazine is pleased to present the monthly Technology Review by Donald H. Kelley—a respected connoisseur of the software and Internet resources wealth management advisors use to further their practices.
Kelley is a lawyer living in Highlands Ranch, Colo. and is of counsel to the law firm of Kelley, Scritsmier & Byrne, P.C. of North Platte, Neb. He is the co-author of the Intuitive Estate Planner Software, (Thomson – West 2004). He has served on the governing boards of the American Bar Association Real Property Probate and Trust Section and the American College of Tax Counsel. He is a past regent and past chair of the Committee on Technology in the Practice of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
Trusts & Estates has asked Kelley to provide his unvarnished opinions on the tech resources available in the practice today. His columns are edited for readability only. Send feedback and suggestions for articles directly to him at [email protected]